A bridge spanning the breadth of the Sirhowy Valley is starting to take shape.

The controversial 220 metre span structure, part of the £55m Sirhowy Enterprise Way, stretches from the northern end of Black-wood across to Oak-dale.

Work on the bridge, similar in design to the Second Severn Crossing, began in spring and is not due to be completed until the rest of the bypass is finished in the spring of 2006.

The project, which aims to regenerate the area by improving the transport links and enticing major companies to relocate to the Valleys, attracted a great deal of criticism from local people because its route went directly through the picturesque St David's Wood.

Work was held up when environmental campaigners took to the trees in the wood in a bid to prevent them being felled to make way for the by-pass.

After months of deadlock, the protesters were removed by professional climbers acting on behalf of Gwent sheriff David Bowen.

Despite the delays, a spokesman for Costains, the company behind the private finance initiative scheme, said: "Progress on the bridge is good." Today, pupils from five local schools were due to tour the site before joining in a bridge-building competition.

Teams from Rhiw Sir Dafydd, Markham, Penllwyn, Pontllanfraith, Blackwood primary schools were scheduled to take part.